Taking a Closer Look at the Racial Disparities in the Rate of COVID-19 Infection and Death

— I have always tried to keep our diversity column positive and focus on achievements and challenges in minority communities. I know I will return to this positive emphasis in the future, but now we’re in crisis. I want to share with you an article from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) which highlights something that we’ve all heard about, but perhaps, in a haphazard fashion. The news reports from time to time state that the African American community has been heavily impacted by Illness and death due to COVID-19. Now in this CDC article we see that the news may be even more concerning than we ever imagined. I want to share this article with you and also ask you to think about what we need to do to stop such a terrible and morally unacceptable tragedy.

“The effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups is still emerging; however, current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. A recent CDC MMWR report included race and ethnicity data from 580 patients hospitalized with lab-confirmed COVID-19 found that 45% of individuals for whom race or ethnicity data was available were white, compared to 55% of individuals in the surrounding community. However, 33% of hospitalized patients were black compared to 18% in the community and 8% were Hispanic, compared to 14% in the community. These data suggest an overrepresentation of blacks among hospitalized patients. Among COVID-19 deaths for which race and ethnicity data were available, hospitalized patients. Among COVID-19 deaths for which race and ethnicity data were available, New York City identified death rates among Black/African American persons (92.3 deaths per 100,000 population) and Hispanic/Latino persons (74.3) that were substantially higher than that of white (45.2) or Asian (34.5) persons. Studies are underway to confirm these data and understand and potentially reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minorities. Factors that Influence Racial and Ethnic Minority Group Health: Health differences between racial and ethnic groups are often due to economic and social conditions that are more common among some racial and ethnic minorities than whites. In public health emergencies, these conditions can also isolate people from the resources they need to prepare for and respond to outbreaks. Living Conditions: For many people in racial and ethnic minority groups, living conditions may contribute to underlying health conditions and make it difficult to follow steps to prevent getting sick with COVID-19 or to seek treatment if they Diversity—Cindy Goldberg, Co-Chair do get sick. Work Circumstances: The types of work and policies in the work environments where people in some racial and ethnic groups are overrepresented can also contribute to their risk for getting sick with COVID-19. Underlying Health conditions and lower access to care: Existing health disparities, such as poorer underlying health and barriers to getting health care, might make members of many racial and ethnic minority groups especially vulnerable in public health emergencies like outbreaks of COVID-19. What Can Be Done: History shows that severe illness and death rates tend to be higher for racial and ethnic minority groups during public health emergencies. Addressing the needs of vulnerable populations in emergencies includes improving day-to-day life and harnessing the strengths of these groups. Shared faith, family, and cultural institutions are common sources of social support. These institutions can empower and encourage individuals and communities to take actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, care for those who become sick, and help community members cope with stress. For example, families, churches and other groups in affected populations can help their communities face an epidemic by consulting CDC guidance documents for their organization type. The Federal Government is undertaking the following: • Collecting data to monitor and track disparities among racial and ethnic groups in the number of COVID-19 cases, complications, and deaths to share broadly and inform decisions on how to effectively address observed disparities. These data will be translated into information to improve the clinical management of patients, allocation of resources, and targeted public health information. Supporting partnerships between scientific researchers, professional organizations, community organizations, and community members to address their need for information to prevent COVID19 in racial and ethnic minority communities. • Providing clinical guidance and guidance to support actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools, workplaces and community settings, including those serving racial and ethnic minorities. Public health professionals can do the following: • Ensure that communications about COVID-19 and its impact on different population groups is frequent, clear, transparent, and credible. • Use evidence-based strategies to reduce health disparities. Those most vulnerable before an emergency are also the most vulnerable during and after an emergency. Community organizations can do the following: • Prepare community health workers in underserved racial and ethnic minority communities to educate and link people to free or low-cost services. • Help combat the spread of rumors and misinformation by providing credible information from official sources. Healthcare systems and healthcare providers can do the following: • Implement standardized protocols in accordance with CDC guidance and quality improvement initiatives, especially in facilities that serve large minority populations. • Promote a trusting relationship by encouraging patients to call and ask questions. What Individuals Can Do • Follow CDC’s Guidance for seeking medical care if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Follow steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick. • If you or someone you care for is at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, take steps to protect them and you from getting sick. • Take precautions to protect yourself, your community, and others. • Cope with stress to make yourself, the people you care about, and your community stronger. • Find ways to connect with your friends and family members and engage with your community while limiting face-to-face contact with others.”

     In conclusion, this article points to such a concerning social issue. It also highlights that the conditions that lead to such a tragedy are not new. As long as minority communities have unequal access to quality healthcare, live in poverty and suffer the effects of poor nutrition, crowded living conditions and crime these tragedies will repeat themselves in one way or another. Our role as caring community members is to highlight these issues and then work toward social and economic equity which will allow minority communities to thrive and not suffer disproportionately when our nation and the world are in crisis. Fondly submitted, for the Diversity Committee PS Wishing you all and those you love, health and safety as we go together to meet the unknown challenges of today and the future. Be well.

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